Academic journal article Military Review

William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War

Article excerpt

WILLIAM LOWNDES YANCEY AND THE COMING OF THE CIVIL WAR, Eric H. Walther, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2006, 477 pages, $39.95.

Eric Walther's biography of William Lowndes Yancey, sometimes described as the "Patrick Henry of the Confederacy," follows the remarkable development of a man from a staunch unionist to orator of secession. The death of Yancey's father, a Navy war hero, and the remarriage of his cantankerous mother to a New England preacher, had a profound impact on young William. He grew to hate his stepfather and the New England society that had spawned him, and that hatred would spur Yancey's politics for the rest of his life.

By 1850, Yancey had come to believe that the best interests of the South lay outside the Union, and he began to agitate for secession. He tried, unsuccessfully, to split the Democratic Party in 1848 and then succeeded in splitting both the party and the Union in 1860-1861. Having brought about the division of the Union, he served the Confederacy as an ambassador to England, a position for which his often intemperate style ill-suited him. Later, Yancey served in the Confederate senate. He died in 1863, having lived long enough to see his Confederacy in deep trouble after the disasters of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. …

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